Entrepreneur Sissi Chao, the founder of social enterprise REmakeHub and winner of Generation T and Luxarity’s R.A.W. Prize, discusses her mission to make the planet a better place
When Sissi Chao started her social enterprise REmakeHub in 2018, her parents were horrified. The company, which provides circular solutions for waste in the fashion industry, was not what they envisioned for their daughter, who had studied business in the UK and gone on to earn an MBA in the US. They were reluctant to tell family and friends that she was, essentially, working with trash.
“They wanted me to have a nice, prestigious job,” Sissi says. “But me, I’m different. I felt that if I could help sort out the planet’s problems, it would be my honour. I feel like this is my mission and I’m blessed that I can use my knowledge to solve waste problems for the planet and for humankind.” And so, she went against their wishes. “I’m independent and once I made the decision, I was going to prove that it works,” she says. “I’m very optimistic and good at execution.” Her can-do attitude paid off, and validation followed. Sissi was interviewed by a local television station and featured on the evening news. This helped convince her parents the business was legitimate—so much so that they have since become part of it, helping with production. After all, it was their business that inspired Sissi.
There is no way that we cannot move towards sustainability, it’s the only choice left. If you still want to be competitive in 10 years’ time, you have to start preparing now
When Sissi moved back to Mainland China after her studies, she worked in her parents’ factory. She saw first hand the pollution the fashion business caused. She was also struggling to adapt to being back. “I wanted to leave. I told my parents that I didn’t want to be here. But they didn’t let me go. So I said, okay, let me think about what we can do better. Instead of being the pollution, we can find the solution.
“I dived into innovative recycling technology and creative design, and realised these two elements could be the DNA for REmakeHub because they can have a big impact, not only by cleaning up waste but also through producing sustainable products on a large scale.”
REmakeHub’s projects have included using coffee grounds to make mugs, recycling plastic bottles into clothing, and making buttons, zips and hangers from fruit and garment waste.
Sissi also worked with a major restaurant chain in Mainland China on zero-waste T-shirts, collecting used cotton from staff uniforms and turning it into recycled yarn—ensuring the business avoids virgin cotton, which requires large amounts of pesticides and more than 2,700 litres of water to grow enough for one shirt.
I’m independent and once I made the decision, I was going to prove that it works
Most recently, Sissi was awarded the R.A.W. Prize, which was established by Generation T and Luxarity, the social arm of the Lane Crawford Joyce Group. The prize, which stands for Responsibility, Awareness and Wonder, seeks to support projects centred on responsible consumption and production, and includes a grant and mentorship.
Sissi plans to use the R.A.W. Prize money to develop a pilot project with WWF to recycle discarded fishing nets. The nets are collected from the Great Barrier Reef and are used to make products such as sunglasses. REmakeHub has also used nets to make office chairs and phone cases, and has plans to use them for headphones in the future.
See also: In Pictures: The R.A.W. Prize Final
With the R.A.W. Prize grant, Sissi aims to build the supply chain of where fishing nets are sourced and collaborate with a Lane Crawford designer on a capsule collection. She hopes that through this and other projects she can encourage more brands to embrace responsible and sustainable production.
“There is no way that we cannot move towards sustainability,” she says. “It’s the only choice left. If you still want to be competitive in 10 years’ time, you have to start preparing now.”
Learn more about The R.A.W. Prize.